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In this episode of the Science Salon Podcast (#50) Michael Shermer speaks with Dr. Rachel Kleinfeld, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where she focuses on issues of rule of law, security, and governance in post-conflict countries, fragile states, and states in transition. As the founding CEO of the Truman National Security Project, she spent nearly a decade leading a movement of national security, political, and military leaders working to promote people and policies that strengthen security, stability, rights, and human dignity in America and around the world.
In 2011, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton appointed Kleinfeld to the Foreign Affairs Policy Board, which advises the secretary of state quarterly, a role she served through 2014. Dr. Kleinfeld has consulted on rule of law reform for the World Bank, the European Union, the OECD, the Open Society Institute, and other institutions, and has briefed multiple government agencies in the United States and abroad.
She is the author of Advancing the Rule of Law Abroad: Next Generation Reform (Carnegie, 2012), which was chosen by Foreign Affairs magazine as one of the best foreign policy books of 2012. Named one of the top 40 Under 40 Political Leaders in America by Time magazine in 2010, Kleinfeld has been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Fox News, and other national television, radio, and print media.
Her new book is A Savage Order: How the World’s Deadliest Countries Can Forge a Path to Security. In this conversation we discuss her new book, specifically:
• What it says about human nature that people so easily turn to violence when there is no central authority.
• What she learned about law and order growing up in libertarian Alaska, and how she got interested in studying violence in failed states around the world.
• Why studying history and reading the classics (like Thucydides) was the best preparation she had for her job.
• Lessons from The Godfather on what happens when governments become corrupt—strong men promising security and protection from corruption rise up.
• Pace the Godfather, what happened in the Republic of Georgia after the fall of the Soviet Union, and why violence spiked and then declined.
• Why dictators like Saddam Hussein do not actually keep violence down in their countries because state-sponsored violence goes unrecorded.
• Her experiences living and working in Russia and other countries undergoing turmoil.
• Putin and Russian today and what they want.
• Columbia as a model of a failed state and what the U.S. did there to help turn things around.
• How the Wild West of the United States was tamed.
• Why violence is higher in the southern United States, and why lynching and other hate crimes were driven more by political power and expediency than by racial hatred (data shows that such crimes peaked before elections).
• How the 21st century is so different from the 20th century’s battle of “isms”: communism, socialism, Leninism, Stalinism, Trotskyism, liberalism, individualism, idealism, humanism, etc. We’re living in a different world today.
• We’re about to colonize Mars and establish a new society there. What parts of government should we take with us there, and what parts should we leave behind? That is, what have we learned over the millennia in terms of good vs. bad governance.
This interview was recorded on January 4, 2019 as part of the Science Salon series of dialogues hosted by Michael Shermer and presented by The Skeptics Society, in California.
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